Month: September 2011

15 books atheists are too scared to read

  1. Crime and Punishment – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  2. Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies – David Bentley Hart
  3. The Gifts of the Jews: How a Tribe of Desert Nomads Changed the Way Everyone Thinks and Feels – Thomas Cahill
  4. Mysteries of the Middle Ages: The Rise of Feminism, Science, and Art from the Cults of Catholic Europe – Thomas Cahill
  5. The Jews: Their Role in Civilization – Louis Finkelstein
  6. Tao Te Ching – Lao Tzu
  7. Christ the Eternal Tao – Hieromonk Damascene
  8. The Story of Christianity: An Illustrated History of 2000 Years of the Christian Faith – David Bentley Hart
  9. Desire of the Everlasting Hills: The World Before and After Jesus – Thomas Cahill
  10. The Mountain of Silence: A Search for Orthodox Spirituality – Kyriacos C. Markides
  11. The Twilight of the Idols and The Anti-Christ: or How to Philosophize with a Hammer – Friedrich Nietzsche
  12. The Mystical Theology of the Eastern Church – Vladimir Lossky
  13. The Brothers Karamazov – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  14. God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions That Run the World–and Why Their Differences Matter – Stephen Prothero
  15. The Orthodox Study Bible: Ancient Christianity Speaks to Today’s World

More Americans tailoring religion to fit their needs

Americans have given up trying to find truth and are now trying to create their own “truth,” apparently. I submit for consideration that this is a natural, and terrible, consequence of the Protestant Reformation and resultant atmosphere of extreme religious pluralism, which necessarily propagates and allows only one dogma, namely, that all dogma is relative.

From USA Today:

If World War II-era warbler Kate Smith sang today, her anthem could be Gods Bless America.

That’s one of the key findings in newly released research that reveals America’s drift from clearly defined religious denominations to faiths cut to fit personal preferences.

The folks who make up God as they go are side-by-side with self-proclaimed believers who claim the Christian label but shed their ties to traditional beliefs and practices. Religion statistics expert George Barna says, with a wry hint of exaggeration, America is headed for “310 million people with 310 million religions.”

“We are a designer society. We want everything customized to our personal needs — our clothing, our food, our education,” he says. Now it’s our religion.

Barna’s new book on U.S. Christians, Futurecast, tracks changes from 1991 to 2011, in annual national surveys of 1,000 to 1,600 U.S. adults. All the major trend lines of religious belief and behavior he measured ran downward — except two.

More people claim they have accepted Jesus as their savior and expect to go to heaven.

And more say they haven’t been to church in the past six months except for special occasions such as weddings or funerals. In 1991, 24% were “unchurched.” Today, it’s 37% .

Barna blames pastors for those oddly contradictory findings. Everyone hears, “Jesus is the answer. Embrace him. Say this little Sinners Prayer and keep coming back. It doesn’t work. People end up bored, burned out and empty,” he says. “They look at church and wonder, ‘Jesus died for this?'”

The consequence, Barna says, is that, for every subgroup of religion, race, gender, age and region of the country, the important markers of religious connection are fracturing.

When he measures people by their belief in seven essential doctrines, defined by the National Association of Evangelicals’ Statement of Faith, only 7% of those surveyed qualified.

Barna laments, “People say, ‘I believe in God. I believe the Bible is a good book. And then I believe whatever I want.'”

LifeWay Research reinforces those findings: A new survey of 900 U.S. Protestant pastors finds 62% predict the importance of being identified with a denomination will diminish over the next 10 years.

Exactly, says Carol Christoffel of Zion, Ill. She drifted through a few mainline Protestant denominations in her youth, found a home in the peace and unity message of the Baha’i tradition for several years, and then was drawn deeply into Native American traditional healing practices.

Yet, she also still calls herself Christian.

Continue reading…

Atheism as a Protestantism

Consider Predestination, which states that individual merit does not ensure salvation and that man has no free will. This has been the most widely held Protestant dogma. When an idea possesses so many minds and such good ones, it is foolish to write it off as fantasy; one must look for the experience on which it rests. Luther supplies it: his seven years of helplessness till lifted up by grace. It was said earlier that predestination was still maintained by many non-believers; they might be surprised to hear it; they do not, indeed, believe that eternal damnation is decreed for the many, including unbaptized infants. But they do believe in scientific determinism — the unbreakable sequence of cause and effect, and that is predestination. It is the assumption all laboratory workers make and it rules out free will. Any present state of fact, any action taken, is the inevitable outcome of a series of events going back to the Big Bang that produced the universe.

Social scientists and common folk who babble about genes or the Unconscious or “man a chemical machine” similarly account for others’ actions and their own as did Luther and Calvin. The road taken was set from all eternity, with no choice at any moment: will is an illusion. The sense of being driven by a power not ourselves is not uncommon, especially among great doers and creators. Some temperaments seem born worshippers of Necessity — Frederick the Great for instance, who outgrew his Calvinist upbringing but remained a fierce determinist. Modern criminology is rooted in this conviction and public opinion in the main agrees: the criminal is not responsible for his acts; he is “conditioned.” Grace (the right heredity or environment) has been denied him.

Other root beliefs of the [16th Century] also have their present counterparts. Luther’s agonizing about sin is matched by the Existentialist preoccuption with Angst, or despair at “the human condition.” Unaccountable “guilt” may be said to be popular today, notably among the many sufferers of depression. It is sometimes cured, as Luther’s was, by introspection, on the analyst’s couch and by acceptance of what is thus revealed. Catholic confession was a summary form of the therapy.

Nor has the word sin disappeared from the vocabulary of the enlightened. More than one modern novelist, poet, or social theorist has attributed the horrors of our time to original sin, although its definition is left vague. It presupposes that human nature is fatally flawed. This is a more ruthless belief than the theologian’s, since it does not include a Redeemer from sin or the efficacy of baptism. In the [16th Century] both together lifted that terrible burden. For some in our day what redeems “scientifically” is political revolution, after which history will stop and society will know happiness without laws — in other words, the Kingdom of the Saints fought for by the Anabaptists and others for 100 years.

The point of drawing parallels between [16th Century] conceptions and the latter-day naturalism, which has obscured but not abolished them, is to show the persistence of meanings without alters expressions of life’s mysteries. It is an abstract continuity, for likeness is not sameness. In history everything observed wears its own dress and raises images peculiar to itself. Protestants and Catholics 500 years ago were not “for all practical purposes” our doubles who happened to talk poetically instead of scientifically. The Socinian’s God was not “the principle of unity”; he was Christ the Lord saving sinners. The likeness in these similars is in the human motive: the idea of worshipping one God is akin to the scientific hope of bringing all phenomena under one law.

Jacques, Barzun, From Dawn to Decadence: 500 Years of Western Cultural Life 1500 to the Present, pp. 29-31